LibriVox recording of The Exploits of Juve by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. Read by Don W. Jenkins.
Fantômas was introduced a few years after Arsène Lupin, another well-known thief. But whereas Lupin draws the line at murder, Fantômas has no such qualms and is shown as a sociopath who enjoys killing in a sadistic fashion. He is totally ruthless, gives no mercy, and is loyal to none, not even his own children. He is a master of disguise, always appearing under an assumed identity, often that of a person whom he has murdered. Fantômas makes use of bizarre and improbable techniques in his crimes, such as plague-infested rats, giant snakes, and rooms that fill with sand. Fantômas’s background remains vague. He might be of British and/or French ancestry. He appears to have been born in 1867. In the books, it is established that c. 1892, the man who later became Fantômas called himself Archduke Juan North and operated in the German Principality of Hesse-Weimar. There he fathered a child, Vladimir, with an unidentified noblewoman. In circumstances unrevealed, he was arrested and sent to prison. C. 1895, Fantômas was in India. There, an unidentified European woman gave birth to a baby girl, Hélène, whose father might be Fantômas, or an Indian Prince who was Fantômas’ acolyte. The girl was raised in South Africa. In 1897, Fantômas was in the United States of America and Mexico. There, he ruined his then-business partner, Etienne Rambert. In 1899, he fought in the Second Boer War in South Africa under the name of Gurn. He fought in the Transvaal as an artillery sergeant under the command of Lord Roberts. He became aide-de-camp to Lord Edward Beltham of Scottwell Hill and fell in love with his younger wife, Lady Maud Beltham. Upon their return to Europe, soon before the first novel begins (c. 1900), Gurn and Lady Beltham were surprised in their Paris love nest, Rue Levert, by her husband. Lord Beltham was about to shoot Maud when Gurn hit him with a hammer then strangled him. Fantômas then impersonated Etienne Rambert and framed his son, Charles, for a murder he had committed. As Etienne, he convinced Charles to go into hiding, but the young man was soon found out by French police detective Juve, truly obsessed with the capture of Fantômas. Juve knew that Charles was innocent and gave him a new identity: journalist Jerôme Fandor who is employed at the newspaper La Capitale. Juve later arrested Gurn and, at his trial, brought forward a convincing argument that Gurn and Fantômas were one and the same, though the evidence was too circumstantial to make a real case. On the eve of his execution, Gurn/Fantômas escaped from custody by being replaced by an actor who had modelled the appearance of his latest character after him and was guillotined in his place. Lady Beltham remained constantly torn between her passion for the villain and her horror at his criminal schemes. She eventually committed suicide in 1910. Fandor fell in love with Hélène and, despite Fantômas repeated attempts to break them up, married her. Fantômas’ evil son, Vladimir, reappeared in 1911. Vladimir’s girlfriend was murdered by Fantômas and Vladimir himself was eventually shot by Juve. The Exploits of Juve chronicles some of Juve’s adventures in pursuit of this master criminal and ends with what may be Fantomas’ revenge on the detective. (Introduction by Wikipedia and Don Jenkins)
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